In the Game of Sneakers, brands have always fought with marketing, campaigns and celebrities. But in the recent years, the battle got more interesting with innovative initiatives: Nike closed a partnership with Dreamworks Animation and announced it would use 3D printing in its production to cut costs, then with Adidas and its Futurecraft initiative or most lately the announcement of Nike’s Hyperadapt 1.0, the self lacing-shoe. Now Reebok (which is part of the Adidas Group) steps into the game with Liquid Factory, a shoe lab like no other.
“Footwear manufacturing really hasn’t changed over the last 30 years” explains Bill McInnis, Vice President of Reebok Future, “in fact if you walked into a shoe factory 30 years ago or you walk into one next week that was making footwear, you’d see essentially the same thing. Every shoe, from every brand on the market is created using molds. Shoes are expensive because molds are expensive. What if we created a new process to make shoes without molds? We’d get a lost faster and would change what we make, how we make it, where we make it and whom we make it with.”
Using state-of-the-art manufacturing software and machinery to build a system that literally draws shoes in 3 dimensions, Reebok experiments with technology, using a proprietary liquid material created especially for the brand by BASF, the machine draws shoe components cleanly and precisely in 3D layers.
Already sold out, the first 300 pairs of shoes to get out of this lab are the Liquid Speed Sneakers. Made without traditional molds, its outsoles are the first-ever energy return outsoles: it has twice the energy return of a typical rubber outsole.
The brand has announced its first owned Liquid Factory lab to be opened by beginning of 2017 with AF Group in Lincoln, Rhode Island. Yet, the brand hasn’t commented on its ambition scale, we’ll just have to wait and see.